Star-studded field for Volvo Golf Champions

5 December 2013

While a 30-strong elite field contests the Nedbank Golf Challenge at South Africa’s Sun City resort this week, an equally star-studded field, headed by four-time major winner Ernie Els, will line up at Durban Country Club for the Volvo Golf Champions in January.

The Volvo Golf Champions features winners on the European Tour from the past year, as well as established stars who have won more than 10 European Tour titles in a “Tournament of Champions”.

With an increased prize fund of $4-million (R41.7-million), a top field is certain as rising stars battled top veterans.

Big stars

Record-breaking 20-year-old Matteo Manassero will head up the challenge of the next generation, while Els, a 26-time winner on the European Tour, will be joined by European Ryder Cup stars Miguel Angel Jimenez, three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, 2010 Open Champion Darren Clarke , eight-time Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie, 17-time European Tour winner Thomas Bjorn and two-time Major winner Jose Maria Olazabal.

Between them the aforementioned older generation have won 142 European Tour titles and have 170 years of experience playing on the Tour.

By contrast, Italian star Matteo Manassero, a four-time winner on the European Tour before his 20th birthday, is one of a talented group of young twenty-somethings looking to emulate the successes of their elders by adding the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions to their CV.

Rookie of the Year

Peter Uihlein, a 24-year-old American, is the newly crowned winner of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, having won his maiden title at the 2013 Madeira Islands Open and finished 14th in the Race to Dubai.

Also qualified is 23-year-old Victor Dubuisson from France after his stunning win at the Turkish Airlines Open last month, along with Korea’s 23-year-old Jin Jeong, who won the 2013 Perth International, and Asia’s newest superstar, 24-year-old Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who qualified with a win at the Maybank Malaysian Open and leads the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit by an unassailable margin.

Els, always a huge drawcard, will be seeking for his first Volvo Golf Champions title, having lost out the last two years to his talented young countrymen, Branden Grace (2012) and Louis Oosthuizen (2013), who are both confirmed in the field.

‘Extra special’

“I am really looking forward to starting my year at the Volvo Golf Champions at the Durban Country Club,” Els said in a statement on Wednesday. “I have had some great wins there and I really enjoy the course and it is always extra special to play in front of my home fans.

“It is going to be a very tough week with so many excellent players in the field, but hopefully we will have another fantastic tournament and I will be able to give the crowds something to cheer about come Sunday afternoon.”

‘A better start’

Manassero commented: “Hopefully I will get off to a better start than I did in the 2013 tournament! I opened with a 75 before playing three great rounds in the 60s and finished top 10.

“It is the perfect way for me to open my season, playing against such an elite field full of so many amazing champions on a course that really suits my game. I hope I can continue how I left off last year and have a great week to kick start my season and give myself the chance to win this very prestigious title.”

Assessing the confirmed entries so far, Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management, said: “This is a great group of both experienced and young and up- and-coming players that really illustrates the strength and depth of the European Tour.”

‘A fantastic group’

Guy Kinnings, the Global Head of Golf for IMG, the tournament’s co-owners, said: “This is a fantastic group of both the Tour’s global stars and the Tour’s rising stars and should make for an intriguing week. Celebrating the European Tour’s Champions is a great way to start off the year and it will be fascinating to see which generation comes out on top at the 2014 Volvo Golf Champions.”

The tournament returns to the Durban Country Club for a second successive year and is being supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Department for Economic Development and Tourism.

SAinfo reporter